Hot Weather Riding – A How-To

Bill Maroon

Well, summer is here, and that means hot weather riding. We’ve already talked about dealing with humidity. And for many of us, getting an earlier start helps beat the heat. But you can ride when the midday sun is beating down and the temperature is climbing. Bill Maroon, a member of my club, reported on his Saturday ride on a tough Austin route — the Dam Loop. Besides being entertaining, his report is also a good example of what we might do to prepare for and ride in hot conditions. Bill gave me permission to share his report on Bike Noob.

I made the decision the other night that 7 a.m. starts on the rides was too early.  Therefore, I started promptly at 9:30 a.m. for my yearly Texas Sweat-box Acclimation.  A four-hour bottle of Infinit was mixed, half went in the freezer, the other half in the fridge.  One bottle full of water and one half full joined the Infinit in the fridge as well.  All three were my trusty Polar BPA free 24 oz. tall boys.

I drank two 32 oz. cups of water slowly as I ate my breakfast and started getting ready. A double shot of Anderson’s Arabian Mocha espresso was in order to get me moving.  About an hour or so before the start, I took three Endurolyte electrolyte caps so that they’d be in my system early.  Right before the ride I poured the rest of the Infinit in with its frozen half and topped off the water bottles.  The frozen bottle went in the middle pocket with the Infinit and other water bottle on the bike.  I only took a Clif Bar, one package of Clif Shot Blocks, one Clif Shot Gel pack, and a handful of Endurolytes figuring that’s all I’d really need.

The start of the ride was pretty good. I didn’t really start hitting the water until I reached Barton Creek Blvd., at which point I was regularly taking pulls with small sips of the Infinit.  My goal was to kill this bottle of water off by the time I reached Route 620, and my timing was spot on.  A nice tailwind heading north on 620 moved me along easily, and then began the slog on up to Route 2222.  My first pit stop would be the Starbucks at Four Corners and my second bottle was depleted just as I rolled into the parking lot.  Two refilled bottles of ice water courtesy of Starbucks and I was back on the road making my way to River Place.

Knowing what climbs were ahead, I tried to take it easy getting back over to River Place but this is about the time the tailwind turned into a Vicious Evil Headwind (VEH).  Slogging up to the fun descent on River Place hurt and it was pretty hairy at 47 mph downhill into the VEH.  The downhill ended and I was left with the two back-to-back gut checks of the rest of River Place followed by Big View Road.  At this point I was still feeling pretty good but was having some flashback from last years Tour das Hugel (Tour of the Hills) and how much I dislike hills.

Making my way over to City Park I figured that my quads had not suffered enough so on up Courtyard I went (Ed. note: Another big climb, not part of the usual Dam Loop).  Upon cresting the top I figured it couldn’t hurt to have my Clif Shot since I could feel my energy starting to drain and the heat seemed to have gone up a notch or two.  An Austin Flyer rider was on the other side making attempt after attempt to climb Courtyard from the 360 side and just barely making it to the top before starting over.  She was in a very special place of personal torture.

Into the home stretch I killed another bottle of water and pulled into the new gas station on Route 360 to refill.  It was at this point that I noticed that my hamstrings and calves were making it known that they were not pleased with the abuse.  I consumed two more Endurolytes and drained the Infinit.

The stop seemed to make things hurt more and the VEH was not letting up. The rest of the hills from the gas station up to Bee Caves Road were torture with every pedal stroke initiating a series of cramps that threatened to stall me out on the hill. Backing it off seemed to help and I was able to make my way to Mopac without incident.  It was also at this pont that I noticed that my once black bibs were now mostly grey with some white racing stripes.  I guess I was losing quite a bit more electrolytes than I thought!

The rest of the ride across the Mopac bridge and then down to the end was mostly without incident save for a young girl that did a “Right Hook” as I was turning onto the Mopac feeder.  All in all it was a good ride and I definitely made some mental notes on what it takes to ride in this heat.

Stats were 55 miles, 3:38 moving time, ~3500 feet of climbing and just under 4 hours total.

Ed. note: Clearly, I haven’t been paying enough attention to pre-ride hydration. And I think I’ll have to stock up on some Endurolytes and Shot Bloks. Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill.

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9 thoughts on “Hot Weather Riding – A How-To

  1. Great post. Here’s a couple of questions for you that have hit me as I have increased to a regular 30 mile training ride: how do you prevent cramp in your calf muscles…is it the electorlyte? And if so, what IS electrolyte and how does it work to prevent cramps? And lastly (greedy questioner ;-) ) What is there natural that I can eat or drink that will either be slow release or else quick shot that will replace lost electrolytes: I don’t like drinking too many sports drinks. Cheers!

    • Andrew, To oversimplify, electrolytes are salts in your body. You lose these salts through sweating. Muscle contraction depends upon the presence of calcium, sodium, and potassium. Eat foods that are high in these salts, for example, bananas for high potassium. Fruits and vegetables generally are good natural sources of electrolytes. Try tomato soup.

  2. Andrew,

    In this heat its tough to ride without drinking some sort of sports drink not to mention it makes it easier to consume while riding.

    As for the cramping there are a number of things ranging from fitness or fatigue, to hydration and electrolyte replacement.

    In the past things like pickle juice, boiled potatoes, salted hard boiled eggs seemed to help with the cramping, granted these were on supported rides. On my own, if they get too bad I’ll stop, stretch, eat, drink, and pray they go away.

  3. Joe Friel cites evidence refuting the theory that sweating out electrolytes causes muscle cramping: http://www.joefrielsblog.com/2010/05/muscle-cramps-and-mythology.html

    Read his next post for the pickle-juice cure. My experience has been that cramping is associated with high-cadence pedaling over a long period, or after pushing a big gear for a long time — that is, related to fatigue and repetition. Getting rid of cramps involves changing cadence, soft pedaling, and worst-case, dismounting and stretching a bit.

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